When I think of South African electronic music, there is one name that immediately jumps to the foreground of my mind: Felix Laband.

Why him?

Laband emulates pure musical genius. Genius in a genre that very often lacks the multitudes of creativity captured in just one of Felix Laband’s songs.

Dark Days Exit has been a continuation of Laband’s minimalistic trend. He uses the technique of sampling, including that of classical music, jazz and television recordings.  Laband’s work on this album is praiseworthy enough, to liken him to other minimalist greats like Steve Reich and John Cage. It is clear that he is carrying the torch of minimalistic music into a new era where different musical possibilities exist.

The more critical Laband listeners out there have claimed his work to be boring and repetitive. Consider the words of minimalist predecessor John Cage: “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

In this album Laband blurs the lines of electronic and live music. He uses live instrumental overlays- most often performing them himself or recording guest artists. This enhances each and every song by giving it a real emotional authenticity, which only the tone of a real live instrument could give. It is refreshing to know that someone so involved in the creation of ‘synthetic’ music has not forgotten this.

The album begins with “Whistling in Tongues.” Arpeggiated guitar chords are followed by a mix of calming sounds.  A subdued flute enters which plays off the beat of the quiet drummed rhythm. Immediately, you are drawn into an auditory world of colour and vastness. If you had to try, Dark Days Exit could even be the perfect meditative music for you. It seems to uplift you onto some lighter and more conscious plane of existence.

Other highlights that feature on the album include “Dirty Nightgown”, “Red Handed”, “Black Shoes” and “Radio Right Now.” But I suggest that if this is the very first time you listen to this album, you do it without consideration for track names or time. Give yourself sixty-six minutes and thirty-nine seconds to do nothing but listen.

Dark Days Exit is, by far, Felix Laband’s best work so far. As South Africans we should be proud to call him our own. If you have never heard the music of Laband, keep your mind and your ears open for a different kind of musical experience.

The album consists of a total of ten tracks, all of which softly submerge into one dream-like audio landscape. The mix of sounds has been meticulously placed and thought out. There is not one out- of-place note or beat. Instead, every song tells a story you will be sad to hear the end of. Dark Days Exit is perfect for any day or night where you wish to immerse yourself into translucent and seamless melodies.

By Sarah Farrell

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